South Dakota health officials continue statewide vaccination push

South Dakota’s vaccine rollout has been so far successful. However, medical professionals say that now their efforts are focused on getting the vaccine to the less motivated.
Published: Apr. 13, 2021 at 8:40 AM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota recently crossed over a major threshold in its vaccination efforts, officially vaccinating just over 50% of the state’s population.

Currently, South Dakota has the second fastest per capita vaccine rollout in the country, ranking just behind New Mexico.

“At least 50% of our folks across the state (ages) 16 and over have had at least one vaccine,” said South Dakota Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon. “We have 35% of folks who are full vaccinated, and those are both great milestones.”

However, health officials say that now the hard work intensifies with the remaining 50%, as they move from vaccinating the willing and motivated, to more actively encouraging vaccination amongst those who are less motivated, or currently not planning to get it.

According to polling by FiveThirtyEight, roughly 18% of Americans said that they either did not plan to, or would not get the vaccine.

Avera St. Mary’s Chief Medical Officer Mikel Holland says that the clinic in Pierre has begun to open up appointments to unscheduled walk-ins.

“Last week, we started doing a set number of doses for walk-ins,” said Holland. “We are going to do that again this week, for walk-in appointments who don’t have a scheduled appointment... We are advertising to try and get the word out, use social media, every opportunity like this, to get the word out that we have plenty of vaccines.”

Holland says hesitancy has been particularly noticeable with those fifty and under, and those who have to commute from a more rural community in order to get the vaccine. According to the South Dakota Department of Health’s dashboard, vaccination rates in more rural counties have generally lagged behind urban ones.

“The fifty and under group that think they are bullet proof are just going to go ‘oh well I don’t need this,’” said Holland. “We see that with the influenza vaccine every year.”

Health officials also say they are also working to combat misinformation about the vaccine, its efficacy, and long term side effects.

Malsam-Rysdon is just one of several state officials who has gotten her vaccine.

“The vaccines that are available are safe, (and) we also know they are extremely effective,” Malsam-Rysdon said. “We know that all the vaccines available to South Dakotans are 100% effective at preventing hospitalizations or death from COVID. It does not get much better than that.”

Malsam-Rysdon encourages people to get their information on vaccines from reliable sources.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there that comes from a lot of places, but come to reputable sources of information, that would include your state department of health’s website.”

For more information about getting a COVID-19 vaccine or test, click here.

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